US Defense Secretary urges allies to increase military aid to Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday called on Western allies to double their military aid to Ukraine, warning that the country “faces a pivotal moment on the battlefield” in The war lasted nearly 4 months with Russia.

Mr. Austin was speaking during a meeting in Brussels with nearly 50 countries known as the Ukraine Defense Liaison Group. He praised the influx of tanks, missiles and artillery that has been supplied to Ukraine so far, but said it was not enough, adding, “The stakes are too high.”

The United States and its allies are expected to announce the delivery of more weapons and equipment late Wednesday in response to an increasingly urgent plea from President Volodymyr Zelensky for more heavy weapons. to recapture eastern territory lost to Russia and defend against Russian missile attacks.

Ukraine is struggling to fend off a Russian onslaught in the east, with Moscow’s forces on track to capture the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk. Kyiv has expressed disappointment that many of the heavy weapons promised by Western allies have not arrived, as Russia uses its advanced artillery to gain control of much of the eastern Donbas.

The comments come as administration officials say they are increasingly considering options for how to handle a protracted conflict – and whether a cease-fire, or a similar formal armistice agreement. similar to that achieved in Korea 70 years ago, will help or harm the Ukrainian cause.

Officials say their analysis is rather pessimistic. They fear that Russian President Putin might stop the war to rebuild his army and might look for another opportunity to capture all of Ukraine, his goal when the war began on February 24.

But they also note that Putin may not be interested in an armistice if it does not lead to sanctions relief. It would be hard to imagine easing those sanctions, officials say, until there is a resolution of who controls the Donbas and other areas Russia has invaded.

For now, officials said, they are preparing for the long-term support of the Ukrainian government, and providing more weapons. But officials are clearly concerned that American public interest in the conflict and European unity could weaken. They are looking to revive that interest, including by inviting Mr. Zelensky to attend a NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.

“Russia is using long-range fire to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions,” added Austin, a retired four-star army general. “So we must strengthen our shared commitment to Ukraine’s right to self-defence, and we must push ourselves further to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself.”

The types of heavy weapons that the US has supplied to Ukraine so far include 108 artillery pieces and 4 HIMARS . truck mounted multiple launch rocket system, with missiles with a range of up to 40 miles, greater than anything Ukraine currently has. The first Ukrainian team is expected to complete training on the HIMARS system on Wednesday and will be deployed on the battlefield next week, a Biden administration official said. More systems will be deployed to Ukraine this week, US officials said.

On Tuesday, a senior Pentagon official dismissed the idea that the United States or other Western allies are being overly cautious about sending advanced weapons to Ukraine, possibly to avoid escalating escalate a larger-scale war with Moscow.

“We will give the Ukrainians what they need to prosecute targets inside Ukraine,” Colin H. Kahl, Secretary of Defense for Policy, said at a security conference in Washington. .

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